S8 Update – Samsung has blocked remapping of Bixby button

The new Galaxy S8 smartphone has a button on the left side of the device to activate Bixby, which is a waste of room if you don’t intend to use Samsung’s own assistant. Developers figured out ahead of the phone’s announcement that the accessibility service could be used to intercept the KeyEvent led to by the button. That meant it could be remapped to something else, like Google Assistant. It appears Samsung was not too happy about that, and has blocked it in a new OTA.

Samsung has documentedly prevented the Bixby button on its Galaxy S8 from being remapped to perform other functions. It was previously documented that a third-party app could alter the button’s purpose; instead of opening Samsung’s personal assistant, perhaps some customers would prefer that it trigger Google Assistant, launch the camera, or open a favorite app.

According to a post at XDA Developers, a new firmware update from Samsung now shuts down the ability to remap the Bixby button. Previously, the button’s command was “intercepted” by the Accessibility Services built into Android. That allowed other programs (once provided accessibility permissions by the user) to alter its default function. But the current Galaxy S8 system firmware removes this possibility.

Keep in mind that Bixby on the Galaxy S8 is launching without voice support, which is perhaps the most important middle feature of an “assistant” like Siri and Google Assistant. Without voice, Bixby is similar to HTC’s BlinkFeed or the side solar panel of Google Now. It attempts to display you fascinating information and the day’s agenda without requiring much from you, the user.